The cultural tours mainly focus on the indigenous peoples
of the Omo Valley. Visiting such unique cultures helps one to truly
differentiate between what is really necessary in life and what is only
cosmetic. It helps one to realize that it takes very little to be
These are people whose life is not affected at all by the increase of
petrol price or the decrease in dollar value.
They do not need
psychiatrists and marriage councilors. They do not miss the multitudes of
modern gadgets and 'comforts'. They do not want much but what they need
they get from nature inside which they are happily 'lost'. They are not
primitive, as the uninformed may assume, but people whose values are
different than that of the modern person. They live harmoniously and
happily. After all, isn't that what really counts ?
Culturally the Southern Region is quite rich with some 45 Languages
spoken by people of many different ethnic origins. These nations, from the
many thousand-strong Borena to the just 1000-strong Karo,
exhibit a fascinating range of cultural practices.
One notable cultural practice of these different groups of people is
the way they build their houses. The Dorze, the Sidama and
the Gurage in particular are known for their domed or beehive-like
constructions that demonstrate the different uses of bamboo.
Just why there should be so many different people in such a relatively
small patch of the earth is a matter of conjecture, but one probable
reason may be the fact that that spot happens to be the place where
peoples of four totally different cultural groups meet.
Seven distinct groups of people border on Mago National Park,
and hence a visit to this park has two advantages.
While exploring wild animals is one of them, the other is meeting these
amazing peoples and observing their cultural features and the way they
inhabit the park as an integral part of the natural ecosystems.
The Omo Valley is unique in that four of Africa’s major linguistic
groups including the 'endemic' Omotic Languages are represented within one
relatively small area.
To anthropologists, the Omo Valley is not far
from being the proverbial 'Living Museum'.
Following are some of the fascinating peoples and cultures:
- The Dorze tribe: - A rich weaving tradition
They are one
of the small segments of the great Omotic language group of southern
Ethiopia. Once warriors, they now earn their living by farming and
weaving. The Dorze name is synonymous with the best in woven cotton
cloth and the tall-up bee-hive shaped bamboo house. There is quite a big
Dorze community living and weaving on the northern part of Addis, on the
way to Entoto. These peoples rarely use the administrative and police
force of the city. They settle all disputes in their usual cultural way,
through their elders.
- Konso: - People of Wooden-totem
About 960 miles south west
of Addis Ababa lies the widely cultivated Konso land that is embraced by
Precambrian serpentines and granites. The Konso peoples speak eastern
Cushitic language and are agriculturalists and weavers.
are cryptic beyond visitors' imagination which is demonstrated in the
distinctive idealization of the figures and heroic lives of their
deceased symbolized with wooden totem.
- Hamar & Benna: - the Bull-Jumping people
the far South West Omotic region, beyond Mount Buska live the
Hamar and Benna people. These astounding and superstitious people, were
veiled in mystery for over half a century.
The Hamar and Benna, are
two of the Omotic speakers of remote south west Ethiopia, with unique
manifestations of traditional wisdom, the 'jumping of bulls'.
purpose of this rite is two fold: while one is the passage from boyhood
to adulthood, the other is the courting occasion when both men and women
adorn themselves to win a mate.
The men put an ochre buns on their
skin and head and insert ostrich feather, while the women wear their
hair in short tufts rolled in ochre mixed with fat.
- Mursi & Surma: - people of labial and lobular
In the remote wilderness of the south west Ethiopia live the
Mursi & Surma. These peoples were completely forgotten by Ethiopia
and the outside world at large, and they on their part had no notion of
the outside world including Ethiopia until the seventies.
of this savannah and mountainous land have such extensive cultural
features that never ceases to amaze visitors.
While the women show
their beauty and endurance by the ear lobes and the piercing of the
lips, the men demonstrate their courage and stamina in the stick
- The Karo tribes: - people of chalk painted bodies
tribe residing along the borders of the Lower Omo River incorporates
rich, cultural symbolism into their rituals by using ornate body art,
intricate headdresses, and significance within their community.
most important ceremony in the life of a Karo is the Pilla, or jumping over a group of oxen. This ritual marks
the passage from adolescence to adulthood. The ceremony is similar to
that of the Hamar, however the Karo only have four chances to jump over
the oxen without falling.
- The Dassanetch: - people of circumcision
They speak a
completely different language and are actually the Cushitic speaking
group of the Omo Valley.
The most important ritual of the Dassanetch
is the so-called dime. In theory, only a man who has had a
daughter can be circumcised, although in practice, circumcision is
carried out on the entire age-group. The daughter is most important in
the dime ceremony. After the ceremony, which takes six weeks, the
participants are upgraded to 'great men', or those that may engage in
The dime ritual is directly connected to the upcoming
marriage of the daughter when large quantities of cattle are slaughtered
for the occasion.